He Gave Me Barn Cats by Maria Santomasso-Hyde
HE GAVE ME BARN CATS
Release Date: Tuesday, March 14th
INTERVIEW WITH MARIA SANTOMASSO-HYDE
Hi Juneta! Thank you for asking me to be a guest on your blog, Writer’s Gambit. Here are the answers to your questions:
Hi Marie Welcome to Writer’s Gambit, so happy to have you today!
JUNETA; What was your inspiration for this book?
MARIA: I was in a very dark place emotionally when inspiration for my book struck me, hard. Here’s an excerpt from the book, which tells what happened.
“My grief counselor from Hospice told me to write about my feelings in a journal. I politely blew her off….The thought of jotting in a journal did not appeal to me. I was accustomed to writing articles under deadlines―and getting paid for it. But today…. “The still small voice” that I know as God says to write a book about the barn cats that had moved into my barn.
I can’t even think straight. I can barely gather my thoughts well enough to converse with my customers. I can’t seem to form interesting sentences like I used to do. Even making a simple sentence is agonizing. How can I possibly write a book?
After about twenty minutes of internal arguments like this, I simply can’t argue anymore. I have to write―and then I can’t stop writing. If I was in a movie right now, the music would crescendo. I wildly scribble notes in a tiny pad…. Within an hour, I’ve developed an outline of chapters and themes, and the first chapter is written. I’m off to a good start.”
JUNETA: What was your favorite part of writing it and/or character
MARIA: My book is raw and truth-filled. It was painful to write, so it’s difficult to have favorites in it, but I do enjoy the old stories about my great-grandmother. Also, creating voices for Charlotte and Lindsey broke me and put me back together again.
JUNETA: What did you learn from writing this book and/or how did that affect you?
MARIA: From writing this book, I’ve learned that my sentences are often too long! Seriously, I’ve learned to pour myself out onto the page in a gooey mess. It’s painful, but it makes for more genuine writing.
JUNETA: If you were pitching this book, what would be your pitch? (Include log line)
MARIA: When I pitched my book to publishers, I used this tag-line: “A woman has too many losses too close together, and her soul enters its darkest winter. Can the kittens in her barn help her heal?” I also referred to the book as a combination of Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie and Grogan’s Marley and Me.
Before I ever sent the first query letter to a publisher, I spent a lot of time online studying what constitutes a good query letter. Mine was slightly less than two pages long and included a one-paragraph synopsis and a list of “Key Selling Points.”
JUNETA: Tell us a bit about your writer’s journey, start, how long, learned and hardest thing. (Include any writing rituals and/or fave place to write with answer)
MARIA: I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I even took double the number of English classes required at my high school. I majored in English in college, graduating from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, where I was editor of a poetry journal and an arts magazine.
My first job out of college was as a reporter for a small town daily newspaper, The Concord Tribune. On my website (www.MariaSantomassoHyde.com), you can see a photo of me in the newsroom in 1981. After that, I was a public relations writer. Now, I own and manage Alta Vista Gallery in Valle Crucis, NC, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where I live with my husband, Lee Hyde. Running in and out of the art gallery is our current Barn Cat, Roma.
The only writing rituals I have are a hot shower first, to ease my sore muscles, and I prefer total silence. I sit on my sofa and write on a laptop. Please let me know if anyone out there has ideas on better ways to write that won’t make my muscles hurt worse than they already do! (I have three scoliosis curves; this poor anatomy causes pain.) I sometimes try to type while standing, but it’s tough to find a surface that’s the right height.
What I’ve learned while writing this book: God pursues us, often using things we love―such as writing, and animals, and all of Nature. He uses these things to speak to us. The animal characters in my book were real; God taught them to speak to me, and then I gave them narrative voices. One of the barn cats, Jack, taught me that you must reach out in order to feel love. As Jack says in the book, “If you want treats, you can’t be afraid. If you don’t reach out, then you don’t get treats.”
◊ by Maria Santomass0-Hyde